Drive-thru blessing inspires

During a recent downpour, the faithful of St. Michael Parish in Wauchula patiently lined up in their vehicles to be closer to the Lord.

Father Oscar Mendoza, Administrator of St. Michael, led a drive-thru blessing on July 25, 2020, with the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Father Mendoza stood in the rain, with the monstrance safely under an umbrella, and offered a blessing as each vehicle paused.

“At the beginning, the idea of ​​blessing families with the Blessed Sacrament was to replicate what was done a few months ago, visiting house to house and covering as much area as possible,” said Father Mendoza while explaining what actions were taken while the Parish Church was closed due the COVID-19 Pandemic.

While the Church is open for Mass, Father said there are some elderly, sick, or those who were still in fear due to the Pandemic that are staying away from Church.

Understanding the concern, Father Mendoza consulted with Bishop Frank J. Dewane about options for the public to participate in Adoration, but in a new format.

“This time it was more meaningful for families, thanks to the suggestion of the Bishop to be outside the church,” Father Mendoza explained. “In fact, it was a success. Many faithful came to the blessing despite the heavy rain that afternoon, which I called a ‘Rain-down of Blessings.’”

Father began by setting up an appropriate outside altar where he could pray before the Blessed Sacrament. While wearing a mask, Father carried Jesus forward in a monstrance to be closer to the faithful who remained in their vehicles.

“At that moment, and with great emotion, I could perceive that the individuals and families who received the blessing were deeply moved by His presence and continued on their way with great gratitude and joy in their hearts,” Father said. Some people were brought to tears while others sought specific prayers for family members who are struggling because of the Pandemic, whether they are ill, in fear, or out of work.

Father Mendoza said he plans to have another drive-thru blessing. “This act of faith could be promoted, since the faithful are hungry and thirsty for God, especially in this uncertain time when they cannot participate in Mass as before due to the pandemic.”

News briefs for the week of Aug. 3, 2020

Band camp takes place

Maintaining social distance while keeping in rhythm is the new challenge for participants in the Bishop Verot Catholic High School Band Camp in the last week of July 2020. Participants are learned new routines to be incorporated into performances during the coming year.

Spiritual Exercises for Spanish Movement lay leaders

During the month of July, some lay members of the Spanish-language Diocesan Directors of the Apostolic Movements had the opportunity to participate in Ignatian Spiritual Exercises at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice. These exercises have been proposed by the Church as a true school of spiritual life. The groups were divided between men and women to ensure social distancing was maintained.

Year of Saint Joseph

Stained glass window at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Moore Haven.

On the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, in the context of the Coronavirus, consecrated the Diocese of Venice to the care and protection of St. Joseph. The Bishop announced a “Year of St. Joseph” beginning March 19, 2020 through March 19, 2021. St. Joseph, often referred to as the Protector, can be our protector during this time of the pandemic. To pray a Novena to St. Joseph please visit the Year of St. Joseph webpage at https://dioceseofvenice.org/a-year-of-st-joseph/.

Dispensation

While the celebration of public Mass resumed May 18, 2020, Bishop Frank J. Dewane announced that the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains in effect through Sept. 1, 2020 for those who are at greater risk or anxious about returning at this time. The Faithful ought not to worry about remaining home if they are concerned for their wellbeing or that of other parishioners. Of course, those who are sick or have symptoms associated with COVID-19 are to stay home. Please check the Diocese of Venice website for any updates.

Livestreaming

The Diocese of Venice will continue livestreaming the Mass through the Diocese website (www.dioceseofvenice.org) and Facebook pages from the Catholic Center in Venice 9:15 a.m. daily as the dispensation to attend Mass remains.

Sunday Televised Mass

The Televised Mass for the Homebound is available throughout the Diocese each Sunday. In northern parts of the Diocese (Manatee, Highlands, Hardee, Sarasota, DeSoto and Charlotte counties) the Mass airs on television at 9:30 a.m. on the CW Network. In the southern portions of the Diocese (Collier, Lee, Glades, Hendry, Charlotte counties) the Mass airs at 10:30 a.m., on WFTX-TV (FOX-4). This same Mass can be found on the Diocese of Venice website at any time during the week, www.dioceseofvenice.org/tvmass. Please check local listings for channel information.

Parish donations

During this challenging time in the life and mission of the Diocese of Venice, our Parishes face increased risk of financial shortfalls due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and its effects on everyday life. Parishes depend on weekly financial gifts to continue their ministries, especially in this critical time of crisis. The Diocese of Venice is providing an online platform and encourages the Faithful to support their Parish. Please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/ways-to-give/parish-donations-online/ to donate to your Parish. The Faithful may also contribute through usual channels (e.g., envelopes, and through the Parish online giving option). Together we will navigate through this crisis, provide assistance to those in need, and secure the road ahead for the Parishes within the Diocese of Venice.

Online Resources

A special coronavirus webpage is located on the Diocese of Venice website at www.dioceseofvenice.org. Resources include links to the Mass, the prayer for an Act of the Spiritual Communion, videos of the Stations of the Cross, Divine Mercy Chaplet and Pray the Rosary. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website, www.usccb.org, also posts the daily Mass readings.

Act of Spiritual Communion

It has long been a Catholic understanding that when circumstances prevent one from receiving Holy Communion, it is possible to make an Act of Spiritual Communion which is a source of grace. Spiritual Communion means uniting one’s self in prayer with Christ’s sacrifice and worshiping Him in His Body and Blood.

The most common reason for making an Act of Spiritual Communion is when a person cannot attend Mass, as is the case during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Acts of Spiritual Communion increase our desire to receive sacramental Communion and help us avoid the sins that would make us unable to receive Holy Communion worthily.

For all who will not be able to receive the Holy Eucharist in person, consider this special prayer, an Act of Spiritual Communion:

My Jesus,
I believe that You
are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,

and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there

and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.
Amen.

Faith Formation in Spanish completes third cycle

The final phase of an intensive three-year Spanish-language Faith Formation Program concluded in June 2020 with 358 earning a Diocesan certificate of completion. In the three years of the program a total of more than 1,300 earned certificates.

A faith formation class in Spanish takes place Jan. 28, 2020 at Sacred Heart Parish in Bradenton.

With the support of Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Diocese Hispanic Ministries Director Father Claudio Stewart, the Spanish Faith Formation Program sessions were developed immediately following the local consultation process of the V Encuentro in 2016 and 2017.

The results were overwhelmingly positive as the program has shown there is a real desire for Hispanic Catholics to be formed in their Faith. The 2019-2020 sessions, which covered the “History and Tradition of the Church,” were interrupted by the COVID-19 Pandemic. However, thanks to technology, the final sessions of instruction were available and completed online.

The V Encuentro was a multi-year outreach initiated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, with a goal of discerning ways for the Church in the U.S. to better respond to the needs of the ever-growing Hispanic presence. The process involved consultations at the Parish, Diocesan, regional and national levels. A final report was submitted to the Vatican in September 2019 with recommendations for inclusive action at all levels of the Church in the U.S. and are in the process of being implemented.

The idea behind the initial three-step Spanish Faith Formation Program within the Diocese was to quickly help bridge the gap in formation for Hispanics in the Diocese for whom English is not their first language. This gap had created an isolation among some, and the program became empowering to Hispanic Catholics who often felt they were outsiders in the Catholic Church within the U.S., primarily due to the language difference.

Father Carlos Reyes, Scalabrinian, Pastor of Our Lady Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee, leads a faith formation class in Spanish on Feb. 24, 2020 in Immokalee.

The benefit of having the formation program in Spanish was to allow the participants the opportunity to better absorb the complexities of the Faith without the extra work of translating the information. This also helped streamline the instruction and allowed a more open discussion.

The formation program provided a structured and ongoing formation of the lay people with the goal of allowing people to be in contact with the Deposit of Faith (Depositum Fidei) – Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. At the conclusion of the processes, those who earned the certificates are encouraged to use their new-found knowledge to evangelize in their Parish community.

The Faith Formation classes were divided into four geographic regions of the Diocese to allow easier access to the courses. Instructors included 10 priests and two women religious. Each level became increasingly sophisticated, challenging the participants to take a fresh look at the Catholic Church.

The first phase in 2017-18 focused on the “Magisterium,” with a thorough explanation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The second course in 2018-19 was dedicated to the “Revelation and Introduction to the Sacred Scriptures.” The third course, which was completed in June, covered the “History and Tradition of the Church.”

Father Stewart has reaffirmed that while the initial three-part program is completed, there is more in the planning process for expanding Hispanic Faith Formation within the Diocese. However, the ongoing pandemic has caused delays in implementing those plans.

Other actions taken since the local V Encuentro sessions have encouraged a broader outreach and inclusion in existing Parish and Diocesan events. This means having sessions in Spanish at conferences, bilingual programs, and other steps that will help unify the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Venice. As this is the focus of Dioceses across the country, the goal is to create a stronger Catholic Church in the U.S.

“There is not supposed to be a separate Faith for English speakers versus Spanish speakers,’ Father Stewart explained. “We are all part of the same Universal Church – founded by Jesus Christ.”

To learn more about other Diocese of Venice initiative through the Hispanic Ministries Office, please email pastoralhispana@dioceseofvenice.org, or visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/offices/offices-departments/hispanic-apostolate.

Pandemic causes crisis for victims of human trafficking

The worst nightmare of a human being who has been trafficked is of the possibility of getting caught in that dark world once again. Rescue, stability and confidence allow these victims to transition into a productive life of self-sufficiency free from fear.

Add the COVID-19 Pandemic into the mix and many who were far along in the process into leading a “normal” life free from fear, are now at high risk of being trafficked again.

“All at once, everyone was in crisis mode, even those we thought were doing well,” explained Erika Pineros, Catholic Charities Anti Human Trafficking Assistance Program Director. “They were already vulnerable, then everyone lost their job.”

Local, state and federal programs designed to assist people during the Pandemic are not available to most survivors of human trafficking primarily because of immigration documentation issues or a past criminal history that was part of their victimization, Pineros added. “That is where Catholic Charities steps in.”

There are currently 63 clients now being assisted by the Catholic Charities program. While that number may seem high, it is average, the difference, of course, is that instead of a portion of that number being phased into self-sufficiency, all 63 are now in crisis. While they are all not recently rescued survivors, some are seeking help for the first time in two years and they are in desperate need of emergency assistance to prevent homelessness and starvation.

The Anti Human Trafficking Assistance Program provides clients with food and clothing; shelter at a safe distance from the site of the exploitation and transitional housing; coordination of medical services; supportive counseling and further mental health services as needed; orientation to state and federal laws and benefits; assistance with benefit applications; coordination of educational and English as a second language (ESL) services; liaison with law enforcement and immigration service providers; as well as coordination with various community agencies for other required services.

Catholic Charities has some transitional housing it operates, but those units are full, Pineros said. “The demand is always high, so we try to make arrangements for other shelter, but the Pandemic is limiting the number of people at shelters and other transitional housing locations thus decreasing the options.”

Survivors enter the program with nothing, and most can only work jobs in the service industry where the pay is not very good, Pineros added. In normal times, when a job doesn’t work out or they face some other obstacle, there are other options.

An attendee points to a sign as women religious from around the world gather in Rome Sept. 21-27, 2019, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Talitha Kum, an international network of religious women fighting against human trafficking. (CNS photo/courtesy International Union of Superiors General)

“Now they feel like they are back to square one because they don’t know from where the next job will come or what their future holds,” Pineros said. “They are now isolated, and many are very afraid of being caught up in trafficking again.”

That fear is real and the need for mental health counseling because of renewed mental trauma has dramatically increased. While in-person counseling is ideal, it is not possible during the Pandemic. These services have transitioned into video- or tele-mental health. To participate, clients often need added assistance to have access to smart devices, or even how to use them.

Pineros said her team of three has been assisting in helping the survivors non-stop and immediate need is money to pay bills.

While the program receives grants to help victims of human trafficking, there are restrictions on what it can be used for.

“The money people give to Catholic Charities and directly to our program, gives us the flexibility to make a real difference,” Pineros said. “Right now, there is no light at the end of the tunnel for these survivors. They are living day-by-day and week-to-week. We are trying to get them through this crisis, but we need more help because human trafficking doesn’t discriminate, and it isn’t going away.”

To support the Catholic Charities, please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org and to learn more about the Anti Human Trafficking Assistance Program, you can contact Erika Pineros at erika.pineros@catholiccharitiesdov.org.

News briefs for week of July 20 2020

Mary statue stolen from Sebring Parish

A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary was stolen from St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Sebring on Monday, July 13, 2020. It is not known why the statue was stolen, but the Church is asking for its return, or information of its whereabouts. The statue, which weighs about 200 pounds and was recently restored with fresh paint, has been located as part of a Memorial Rosary Garden in front of the Church for the past five years. It is valued at approximately $1,000. The theft follows the destruction of a statue of St. Francis of Assisi on the St. Catherine Church property which took place on June 26, 2020. St. Catherine Pastor, Father Jose Gonzalez, said both incidents are deeply disturbing and upsetting for the Faith community. Police reports have been filed in both cases. While it is unknown why the statues were targeted, it cannot be ignored that many such religious symbols have been vandalized or damaged nationwide in response to the recent social unrest. Anyone with information regarding these crimes is asked to contact the Sebring Police Department.

Beautification project transforms Parish

The faithful of St. Michael Parish in Wauchula recently assisted in a Parish beautification project in early July. The Parish Church and other buildings were power-washed and received a fresh coat of paint. Various landscaping work was also completed. The “Let’s Beautify the Parish!” initiative encourage people to share ideas and support the efforts as well as assist in the work.

Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate Aug. 15

Bishop Frank J. Dewane will ordain to the Permanent Diaconate seven men at 11 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020 at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. The candidates are: Jeffrey Ball of Ave Maria Parish, Ave Maria; Enrique (Rick) Castro of St. Cecilia Parish, Fort Myers; Ramiro Hernandez of St. Michael Parish, Wauchula; Jack W. Milholland Jr. of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Lakewood Ranch; Roberto Pagán of Jesus the Worker Parish, Fort Myers; Vern W. Smith of St. Martha Parish, Sarasota; and Dr. William Soscia of St. Joseph Parish, Bradenton. A reception in the Parish Hall will follow. All are invited and encouraged to attend.

Support After Abortion Virtual Conference

Join the Support After Abortion Healing Network Virtual Conference 2020: Building and Strengthening Abortion Healing Worldwide – Thursday, July 30 to Saturday, August 1.  See and hear online over 40 presenters: clergy, authors, curriculum leaders and those who have been impacted by abortion as they share their wisdom, insights and personal stories. Don’t be surprised that Support After Abortion resides in the Diocese of Venice and some of the presenters live here as well. There is no charge to watch any of the presentations during the three-day virtual conference by visiting www.supportafterabortionvirtualconference.com/home. See the website for a premium upgrade for access to each of the presentations for 90 days. (NOTE: Any priest interested in a free 90-day premium pass – a $49.99 value – can request one by e-mailing Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or calling 941-374-1068.)

First Communion face masks donated by sewing group

The Sewing Group of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples donated 200 white masks for use at Mass by First Communicants and their families on July 11, 2020. The Faith Formation team facilitated the masks for the boys and girls as well as their families. Two Mass were necessary for all of the children as all social distancing rules were also followed.

 

 

 

Parish provides gift cards

St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs recently donated $25 Publix gift cards to families who were using the emergency Catholic Charities Food Pantry. The pantry, which has been in operation in Bonita Springs since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic, is open one day a week and provides emergency food for needy families impacted by the Pandemic. The gift cards were distributed to 200 families to help supplement the food they were receiving and were made possible through the generosity of the parishioners and Father Jarek Sniosek, Pastor of St. Leo.

3D face shield project update

The first phase of a STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, arts, math) 3D printing project to provide face shields to frontline workers has been a huge success. So far 100 already been delivered for use by Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. staff and volunteers at food pantry distribution sites. The project was the idea of Jennifer Falsetiny, Curriculum Specialist for the Diocese Department of Education. The goal is to turn the Camillus Project into an ongoing club for schools to participate so as to give back to the community while providing solutions to a real-world problem. The plan is to re-launch the program again in the new school year to hopefully get more schools involved in the hands-on STREAM 3D printing service project.

Prayer, formation, fun at summer program

The sounds of a few dozen girls praying together in Church had been missing for the past few months at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula.

The Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara (SSVM), women religious who serve at the Parish, were determined to change that by organizing two religion-based programs for children, one for girls the week of June 29-July 3, 2020, and the boys from July 6-July 10, 2020.

Sister Gema Ruiz, SSVM, said, “We are excited to see our children praying and playing together. These programs allow them to experience a week of joy and friendship in this time of hardship.”

The summer programs were for children from kindergarten through fifth grade and usually has more than 150 children. Therefore, the usual raucous crowds were a bit toned down this year with limits on the number of participants to about 60 each. This did nothing to change the purpose of the summer programs, bringing young boys and girls in a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.

This was accomplished through the daily participation in celebration of the Mass, prayer time, religion and Bible classes, games, arts and crafts with some fun mixed in to help burn off the pent-up energy of the young ones.

Safety protocols were followed by children and volunteers alike. There was lots of hand washing and wearing of masks was required at Mass, or at indoor activities in the Parish Hall or classrooms. Masks were only put to the side while eating or when outdoor games took place to avoid heat-related illnesses.

Assisted by men and women who are discerning life as religious with the order each day began early and lasted through the afternoon. There was even a field trip one morning to the Heartland Event Center.

The programs served the added benefit of bringing something normal back into their lives, being together with friends for a few hours.

When asked how his week had gone, one second grade boy jumped high off the ground stretching out his arms legs and exclaimed, “Great!”

Food demand remains high in Arcadia

Francisco Hernandez does not want to go to the food pantry run by Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. at St. Paul Parish in Arcadia, but he has little choice. “I have to feed my children.”

Hernandez was inside one of dozens of vehicles which stopped by the food pantry on the morning of June 12, 2020, which is open the second and fourth Fridays of each month to help families impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic. The food distribution efforts began in late May coinciding with drastic increases in local unemployment as farming in the area reduced or ceased operations.

“I was working 60-70 hours a week,” said Hernandez about his work on a nearby farm. “I worked 10 hours this week and was fortunate for that.”

The rural farming community relies on the agricultural industry for jobs but disruptions in nationwide demand caused farms to shorten or alter their production seasons leaving many with no work.

With five children, Hernandez said he knows of other assistance available in the community, but he trusts Catholic Charities. “The Church is here for us. We support the Church when we can. Now we can’t, so they are helping us. God bless you all,” he said as bags of food were loaded into the back of his vehicle.

Some of the vehicles which came through the distribution line were picking up food for multiple families which didn’t have transportation. The food, mostly dry goods – such as rice, beans and canned food – should support families for a few weeks.

Gloria Romero, the Catholic Charities Regional Director covering the programs in Sarasota, Manatee, and DeSoto counties, said the agency is meeting a specific need in the community.

“We know that this food makes a difference in the lives of the people we serve,” Romero explained. “Taking away the worry about whether or not they will be able to adequately feed their children is a big deal. We are in this for the long-haul.”

The food pantry at St. Paul Parish in Arcadia is one of six distribution points strategically located throughout the Diocese of Venice. Since mid-March thousands of individuals and families have been assisted with more than 450,000 pounds of food. That total does not even include the thousands of others who have received financial assistance for emergency bills or those who are seeking help through tele-mental health counseling.

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. is in urgent need of your financial support during its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To help, please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org/donate or send a check to: Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice Inc., 5824 Bee Ridge Road, PMB 409, Sarasota, FL 34233-5065.

If you need assistance from Catholic Charities for food, financial assistance or tele-mental health counseling, please call the number for your area listed below from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday. Services have expanded to include assistance in applying for state and federal benefits if you have lost work due to the COVID-19 Pandemic:

  • Sarasota/Manatee/DeSoto/Hardee/Highlands counties: 844-385-2407,
  • Charlotte/Lee/Hendry/Glades counties: 844-385-2423,
  • Collier County: 844-385-2404.

Food distribution

Catholic Charities food distribution will take place only at the following times and locations. Please call the regional number for more information.

  • Monday-Friday, 9-11 a.m., Guadalupe Social Services, 211 S. 9th St., Immokalee, Soup Kitchen providing take-out/meals-to-go;
  • Tuesdays, 9-11:30 a.m., Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center, 3174 Tamiami Trail E., Naples;
  • Thursdays, 9 a.m.-noon, St. Margaret Parish, 208 Dean Duff St., Clewiston;
  • Fridays, 9-11 a.m., St. Leo the Great Parish, 28360 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs;
  • Fridays, 9 a.m.-noon, Elizabeth K. Galeana Pantry, 4235 Michigan Avenue Link, Fort Myers;
  • 2nd and 4th Fridays of the month, 9-11 a.m., St. Paul Parish, 1208 E. Oak St. Arcadia.

News briefs for week of June 15

St. Jude Food Pantry open

The St. Jude  Parish Food Pantry is open and distributing food on Wednesdays from 5-6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8:30-9:30 a.m. following all social distancing protocols. Please bring an ID and do not exit your vehicle. Volunteers will load cars.  Located at 3930 17th St., Sarasota, please call the food pantry at 941-955-3934 if you have any questions or visit https://www.stjudesarasota.com/info/st-jude-food-pantry-schedule, for updates.

Parish supports local charity

St. Agnes Parish in Naples has stepped up again to help the needy in the area. This time the Parish collected four pick-up truckloads of food and donated it to St. Matthew’s House, a program that provides innovative solutions to fight homelessness, hunger, substance abuse, and poverty in Collier County.

Food pantry open in Wauchula

St. Michael Parish in Wauchula is the home to a food pantry which has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 Pandemic response. To accommodate those who work, the food pantry is open each Saturday, 7–8:45 a.m., at the Parish 408 Heard Bridge Road, Wauchula. If you need food at a different time or would like to support the efforts to assist the community, please call the Parish at 863-773-4089.

Foundation life-planning seminars to resume June 24

Due to the coronavirus, many Parishes in the Diocese of Venice had to postpone the Life Planning Seminars that were originally scheduled for this past spring.  In response to numerous requests, the Catholic Community Foundation of Southwest Florida Inc. has scheduled three virtual seminars featuring a local Catholic estate attorney, a local Catholic Financial Advisor and Michael Morse, Executive Director of the Foundation. These free seminars are open to anyone wishing to attend, no matter where they are currently located, whether here in Florida or back up north. All attendees will need to register ahead of time in order to join the meeting. The following registration links are unique to each seminar at https://ccfdioceseofvenice.org/home/upcoming-events/. For more information, please contact Michael Morse at 941-441-1124 or by email at Morse@dioceseofvenice.org.

Bradenton food pantry available

The St. Joseph Parish Food Pantry, 2704 33rd Ave. W., Bradenton, is open and distributing food from 9a.m. to noon Monday-Friday, and 5-7 p.m. Wednesdays, following all social distancing protocols. New clients are welcome to register during regular pantry hours. Call 941-756-3732 if you have any questions or wish to make a donation of money or food. For more information on the St. Joseph Food Pantry go to https://www.stjoepantry.com/

Dispensation

While the celebration of public Mass resumed May 18, 2020, Bishop Frank J. Dewane announced that the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains in effect until June 28, 2020 for those who are at greater risk or anxious about returning at this time. The Faithful ought not to worry about remaining home if they are concerned for their wellbeing or that of other parishioners. Of course, those who are sick or have symptoms associated with COVID-19 are to stay home.

Livestreaming

The Diocese of Venice Mass will continue livestream through the Diocese website and Facebook pages from the Catholic Center in Venice 9:15 a.m. daily so long as the dispensation to attend Mass remains.

Sunday Televised Mass

The Televised Mass for the Homebound is available throughout the Diocese each Sunday. In northern parts of the Diocese (Manatee, Highlands, Hardee, Sarasota, DeSoto and Charlotte counties) the Mass airs on television at 9:30 a.m. on the CW Network. In the southern portions of the Diocese (Collier, Lee, Glades, Hendry, Charlotte counties) the Mass airs at 10:30 a.m., on WFTX-TV (FOX-4). This same Mass can be found on the Diocese of Venice website at any time during the week, www.dioceseofvenice.org/tvmass. Please check local listings for channel information.

Parish donations

During this challenging time in the life and mission of the Diocese of Venice, our Parishes face increased risk of financial shortfalls due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and its effects on everyday life. Parishes depend on weekly financial gifts to continue their ministries, especially in this critical time of crisis. The Diocese of Venice is providing an online platform and encourages the Faithful to support their Parish. Please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/ways-to-give/parish-donations-online/ to donate to your Parish. The Faithful may also contribute through their usual channels (e.g., envelopes, and through the Parish online giving option). Together we will navigate through this crisis, provide assistance to those in need, and secure the road ahead for the Parishes within the Diocese of Venice.

Online Resources

A special coronavirus webpage is located on the Diocese of Venice website homepage at www.dioceseofvenice.org. Resources include links to the Mass, the prayer for Act of the Spiritual Communion, videos of the Stations of the Cross, Divine Mercy Chaplet and Pray the Rosary. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website, www.usccb.org, also posts the daily Mass readings.

Year of Saint Joseph

On the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, March 19, 2020, Bishop Frank J. Dewane consecrated the Diocese of Venice to the care and protection of Saint Joseph in the context of the Coronavirus. The Bishop announced a “Year of Saint Joseph” beginning March 19, 2020 through March 19, 2021. Saint Joseph, often referred to as the Protector, can be our protector during this time of the pandemic. To pray a Novena to Saint Joseph please visit the Year of Saint Joseph webpage at www.dioceseofvenice.org.

 

 

Online Directed Retreats

During the current health crisis, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice is offering online 3-day, 5-day, and 8-day retreats based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. In these online retreats, Father Mark Yavarone, OMV, or Father Lino Estradilla, OMV, trained spiritual directors, will meet with you for an hour each day via a link provided to you, to help you to pray and to recognize how God is speaking to you. A Bible and journal should be available for your use. Participants will be emailed any additional materials needed as the retreat unfolds. The cost is as follows: 3-day online retreat, $132.23; 5-day online retreat, $203.98; and 8-day online retreat, $306.48. All information will be confidential, and password protected. If you would like to participate in an online retreat, please email Denise Riley at riley@olph-retreat.org and a code will be provided for your online registration as well as an application. For planning purposes, please allow 7 days from your completed application until the beginning of your retreat.

Tens of thousands fed, provided assistance by Catholic Charities as demand increases

A bag of food, some fruit and bread and a few sweets for the children brought many smiles to the families who came to Immokalee on June 3, 2020 to the food distribution at Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc.

Catholic Charities has been at the forefront of outreach into communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, assisting nearly 44,000 individuals in nearly 10 weeks, a massive increase in demand in comparison to a normal year when approximately 90,000 individuals are assisted through 37 different programs.

“Life is getting increasingly difficult for many of the individuals reaching out to Catholic Charities,” said Catholic Charities CEO Philomena Pereira. “In addition, the need for rent and utility assistance has soared. Due to the continued inability to work and earn a paycheck, so many are struggling to put food on their table and keep a roof over their heads.”

The Immokalee site is one of six emergency food distribution points throughout the Diocese of Venice that is being operated by Catholic Charities. In the period between March 24 and May 31, 2020, Catholic Charities reported distributing 425,873 pounds of food such as canned goods, rice and beans and maseca to 37,557 individuals (11,300 households). In addition, 389 elderly have been assisted through a pantry on wheels outreach, while another 1,995 hot meals/sandwiches have been provided thanks to Three60 Market of Naples.

In the same period, 2,509 have called the Catholic Charities hotlines seeking a variety of assistance. COVID-19 tele-mental health video and telephone therapy has assisted 520, while 233 families (714 individuals) have received emergency financial assistance.

“Yet, through all the hardships, we have seen amazing love and generosity,” Pereira said. “We are so grateful for the support Catholic Charities continues to receive. As a result of that generosity, we can help children and families suffering from the ramifications of COVID-19 virus.”

Donors have been critical in ensuring Catholic Charities has the funds to continue to purchase food from the various regional food banks. One donor provided money to boost the spirits of children for an ice cream party in Clewiston on June 5, 2020. The event took place in the Parish Hall of St. Margaret Parish with social distancing and everyone wearing a mask – except while eating the ice cream.

The reward for the dedicated Catholic Charities staff and volunteers is the grateful smile on the faces of the children and parents who know that they will have one less thing to worry about as they struggle through the crisis.

“We have been and continue to deliver services,” Pereira said. “Without missing a beat, we are helping families in great need across the 10-counties of the Diocese of Venice.”

 

If you need help

If you need assistance from Catholic Charities for food, financial assistance or tele-mental health counseling, please call the number for your area listed below 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday:

  • Sarasota/Manatee/DeSoto/Hardee/Highlands counties: 844-385-2407,
  • Charlotte/Lee/Hendry/Glades counties: 844-385-2423,
  • Collier County: 844-385-2404.

 

Food distribution

Catholic Charities food distribution will take place only at the following times and locations. Please call the regional number for more information.

  • Monday-Friday, 9-11 a.m., Guadalupe Social Services, 211 S. 9th St., Immokalee;
  • Tuesdays, 9-11:30 a.m., Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center, 3174 Tamiami Trail E., Naples;
  • Thursdays, 9 a.m.-noon, St. Margaret Parish, 208 Dean Duff St., Clewiston;
  • Fridays, 9-11 a.m., St. Leo the Great Parish, 28360 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs;
  • Fridays, 9 a.m.-noon, Elizabeth K. Galeana Pantry, 4235 Michigan Avenue Link, Fort Myers;
  • 2nd and 4th Fridays of the month, 9-11 a.m., St. Paul Parish, 1208 E. Oak St. Arcadia;

How to Help

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. is in urgent need of your financial support during its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To help, please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org/donate or send a check to: Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice Inc., 5824 Bee Ridge Road, PMB 409, Sarasota, FL 34233-5065.

News briefs for the week of June 8 2020

Food pantry open in Wauchula

St. Michael Parish in Wauchula is the home to a food pantry which has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 Pandemic response. To accommodate those who work, the food pantry is open each Saturday, 7–8:45 a.m., at the Parish 408 Heard Bridge Road, Wauchula. If you need food at a different time or would like to support the efforts to assist the community, please call the Parish at 863-773-4089.

Parish continues to support Our Mother’s House

The Peace and Justice Outreach of Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch adopted Catholic Charities Our Mother’s House as their charity for the month of May. During that time, the group made three delivers of donations for the babies and young mothers, with each larger than the previous. The donations were much appreciated by the facility which assists mothers and their young children who might otherwise be homeless.

Retired priest celebrates 70th anniversary of ordination

A small celebration marked the 70th anniversary of the Ordination to the Priesthood Father Ireneo Tovar on June 3, 2020, at St. James Parish in Lake Placid.  Father Tovar has been “retired” in Lake Placid for the past 21 years. He has one living sister, a religious sister who is more than 100 years old. He himself is 95 years old and enjoys celebrating Mass at St. James and working in his garden. The Mass was concelebrated by Father Jose Gonzalez, Pastor of St. Catherine Parish in Sebring and Dean of the Eastern Deanery, Father Vincente Clemente, Pastor of St. James, and Father Felix Gonzalez, Parochial Vicar of St. James. Father Tovar was born in Spain, and left Spain against his mother’s wishes because he wanted to become a missionary. He was sent to Africa during World War II to a country then-called Rhodesia, now called Zimbabwe, which he loved. He was the first Anglo many had seen. He spent 18 years as a priest there, establishing churches where there had been none. Later he was reassigned to Camden, N.J., where he worked for over 20 years with the Spanish-speaking migrant population, before retiring to Florida.

Online Prayed Retreats

During the current health crisis, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice is offering online 3-day, 5-day, and 8-day retreats based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. In these online retreats, Father Mark Yavarone, OMV, or Father Lino Estradilla, OMV, trained spiritual directors, will meet with you for an hour each day via a link provided to you, to help you to pray and to recognize how God is speaking to you. A Bible and journal should be available for your use. Participants will be emailed any additional materials needed as the retreat unfolds. The cost is as follows: 3-day online retreat, $132.23; 5-day online retreat, $203.98; and 8-day online retreat, $306.48. All information will be confidential, and password protected. If you would like to participate in an online retreat, please email Denise Riley at riley@olph-retreat.org and a code will be provided for your online registration as well as an application. For planning purposes, please allow 7 days from your completed application until the beginning of your retreat.

Scam Alert

It has once again been brought to the attention of the Diocese of Venice that parishioners have received text/email messages from people pretending to be priests or Bishop Frank J. Dewane and requesting donations in the form of gift cards and/or wire transfers. The messages often greet the person by name and have the priests name in the closing signature of the message; this is a well-crafted and targeted attack on the Church across the country which has hit our Diocese again. These text/email messages are ‘spoofed’ fakes that should not be responded to or taken seriously by anyone. The best defense against this sort of scam is to raise awareness in the community and not respond or open any worrying attachments. It is Diocesan policy that no priest or staff within the Diocese request donations in the form of gift cards, PayPal, MoneyGram, etc.

There is already an established process in place on how parishioners can make donations and participate in the life of the Parish. Whenever a parishioner is worried about any request for money from the parish or a priest, they should immediately call their parish and under no circumstances should they respond to these scam requests.

Bradenton Food Pantry

The St. Joseph Parish Food Pantry, 2704 33rd Ave. W., Bradenton, is open and distributing food from 9 a.m. to noon Monday-Friday, 5-7 p.m. Wednesdays, following all social distancing protocols. Cars will be directed through the parking lot and trunks will be loaded by volunteers in protective gloves and masks. Call 941-756-3732 if you have any questions. You do not need to be a regular client to receive food. To make a donation of money or food, please visit https://www.stjoepantry.com/.

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